Thursday, November 30, 2006
So you can imagine what happens to me. I'm in a store shopping for an item, say a shirt for one of my daughters. But they've got a housewares sale going. I take a detour past housewares, scanning all the displays. Is there anything there worth picking up? My mind is whirring through that unofficial list. The look on my face? Something close to catatonic. If my husband is with me he'll get annoyed. He usually says, "You've got that deer-in-the-headlights look". That's my cue to snap out of it. But sometimes it's all so overwhelming that it's hard to get back in focus.
Part of the problem isn't just me. It's the stores. So many stores today are HUGE. At least the ones we go to most often are. Home Depot: not just hardware these days. You might find decorative stuff or even food (btw my husband highly recommends the Home Depot on Butterfield by 355 for lunch. You can get a great Polish there). Department stores: more than mere clothing and housewares. Sometimes they stock furniture and electronics (I'm not talking Sears. They've always been that way), even books. I wish I could think of some of the more ridiculous stuff I've seen. Occasionally I think, "what is that doing here?". So I'd say it's not just me losing my focus. As a person with a marketing degree (did I just admit that?), I'd say a lot of retailers are spreading themselves too thin trying to be everything to everyone and are losing their focus. Except Home Depot. They know how to catch those contractors on a supply run right around lunchtime. That's a smart move.
Back to me. I'm still working on my shopping list. Hopefully when I trek out for Christmas gifts in the next few days I can stay on track. And if you happen to come across somebody in a store with their eyes glazed over, cut them some slack. After all, it is the holiday season.
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
One of Lukeman's suggestions for making better use of words is to learn several new words a day. Right. I have so much extra time for doing that. Seriously though? I have no excuse. I've got "word of the day" on my Google home page, which puts up a new word, with definition, every day. And each word stays for three days. I'm thinking by the end of three days I should know the word before it disappears. I had been reading through a dictionary to try and find new words. Blah! It's pretty dull. You have to scan through tons of scientific terms and words you'll never use to find one new (and interesting) word. After a couple of days of trying that I gave up. "Word of the day" is a better option.
Here's a word for you today: quotidian. It's been my favorite new word for the past year or so. I first saw it in one of Lauren Winner's books. It basically means daily. And that's about the sum of most of what I do. Life as a mom is a quotidian existence. Same thing, over and over. Laundry, cleaning, cooking. Thankfully as my kids get older I'm starting to break free of that feeling, but when I first saw that word it held all the meaning of my diapering, face-wiping, feeding, and child-bathing lifestyle.
Try using the word quotidian in a sentence today (how hard can it be? Think of something routine in your life and attach the word quotidian to it). You'll make people pause in conversation as they wonder what that word you just used means. It sounds so brainy and lyrical too.
Saturday, November 25, 2006
We have lots of ornaments, so many that we can't fit them all on our tree. And every year we add more to the collection. The fun of it is that most of them have some significance. My husband got me a Clue game ornament the year I wrote a mystery play. A Monster's Inc one came the year my five-year-old was nuts about that movie. There's an assortment of "first Christmas" ones. And a whopping collection of Winnie-the-Pooh and friends. Then of course with three girls we have all kinds of princess ornaments.
My husband and I both have our own from our childhood too. Some of them are deteriorating from age (we're not that old though!). And some are decidedly retro looking. But my favorites are the three Korean "Norige" ornaments from my mother's trip to pick up my youngest sister. They're absolutely beautiful. Bright pinks, greens and blues, with long fringed tails. There's a pair of hanbok shoes for sociability, a stocking for longevity and a folded oculus representing the balance of yin and yang. I love how they stand out from the rest of the ornaments. It reminds me of my family and how much I appreciate having grown up exposed (at least in a small part) to this other culture.
So the tree is up and decorated. My little HO train has been zipping around underneath it (actually today we only got out the street car - boy, does that thing fly along the track. We'll pull out the engine and freight cars later).We drank eggnog and listened to Christmas music as we worked (Bethany's favorite tradition). And now the kids are going all around the house singing Christmas tunes. A few more days of it and I may be ready to switch it off (help! I think all my "regular" radio stations are playing "All Christmas, all the time"). We're in the Christmas spirit at our house. How about you?
Thursday, November 23, 2006
It was fun! I've watched the parade on TV for years and while it's not Macy's Parade in New York, it's pretty darn close. We parked ourselves on the curb across from the Harold Washington Library. From there we could watch the big balloons ducking under the 'L tracks. The balloons were my favorite part - seeing them up close was pretty cool. My husband's favorite has always been Kermit, but my youngest daughter and I agree that Elmo & Dorothy got our votes.
The kids seemed to enjoy themselves. All three girls pretty much sat enthralled almost the whole two-plus hours. Thankfully it wasn't too cold. Everybody's feet were nearly numb, but that was the extent of our chill. Can't say as much for some of the cheerleaders and dancers in the parade. They come from Florida and Texas to Chicago in November! What are they thinking?!
There were a lot of horses in the parade this year. It was sort of this theme they had. Dominick's sponsored all the horse groups (why? what do horses have to do with groceries?), so every time you saw a Dominick's banner you knew to watch for horses. And horse droppings. Thankfully each group had a clean-up crew (ew!).
Anyway, besides all the incredible things in my life (like my husband and daughters, my family, my church family, a nice home, a good school, etc.) I'm thankful for pumpkin donuts and parades and afternoon naps. We are so blessed! I hope that's how you're feeling today too.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
- An Inconvenient Truth (Al Gore) - because my sister strongly encouraged me to see the movie. I seldom watch movies, but like to read. So far it's very depressing. Everybody just stop driving your cars.
- The First Five Pages (Noah Lukeman) - a book on writing. Just checked it out from the library today.
- Reading Lolita in Tehran (Azar Nafisi) - I'd heard good things about it, so I picked it up at a garage sale. I think it would be much easier to understand if I'd read any of the books discussed in it. But I'm not feeling a strong desire to read Nabokov just to understand this book better. Still, it's an interesting look at life in Iran.
- The Forest for the Trees (Betsy Lerner) - another book on writing. What can I say? I need help.
- Sabbath Keeping (Lynne M. Baab) - it's been on my bedside for a while now. I'm trying to read a chapter and then put it to use before moving on.
- For Women Only (Shaunti Feldhahn) - to help me relate better to my husband. Is it working, hon?
- Baby Proof (Emily Giffin) - Light fiction. Just for fun and because she's a former Napervillian (if I remember correctly from my cousin's article in the Daily Herald).
Monday, November 20, 2006
When you put your toboggan on the run at the top of the hill and climb on there's this sensation you get (or at least I do) of an electric charge surging up and down your limbs. As you settle down onto the toboggan you feel the wood slip back and forth on the slick track. The front end begins to jut out over the steep drop. You grab hold of the ropes or cushion or nearest body, sweat soaking the inside of your mittens. Then there's that second where the front begins to drop forward and you see the whole hill laid out in front of you, bits of wooden track jutting out of the snow. The next thing you're plunging down at lightening speed, wind whipping your cheeks, your mouth gaping in a scream. Everything around you is a blur of white and green as you rush past pine trees. In no time you're at the bottom and everything begins to come in focus again as the deeper snow swishes around you, slowing the toboggan to a crawl and then a stop. When you stand up your legs are wobbly and your lungs are sucking in the frigid air.
That's how I feel today. We're at the top of the holiday toboggan run, peering over the edge before we plummet down into the rush and flurry of shopping lists and Christmas card lists and cookie baking. I can see it all clearly now, but come Thursday or Friday it's going to begin whipping by in a blur. And then by December 25th or 26th, or if you're on a higher hill, January 1st or 2nd, it will begin to come back into focus. So pull out your scarves and mittens, and slip on your snowpants and boots. Get ready to enjoy the ride!
Saturday, November 18, 2006
If you don't have an ULTA store near you, check it out online (can't say how much shipping will add to your cost, but it's worth a peek). www.ulta.com
Friday, November 17, 2006
Do you like our oriental theme? The centerpieces are a set of four square dip dishes on a square platter (from IKEA) containing a rice-filled organza bag, fortune cookies and a pair of chopsticks tied with ribbon & a silk flower. Then each lady took home a treat box filled with two fortune cookies that we had specially printed for us. These are the 2-4-6-8 boxes (actually they’re 2 5/8, 5 ¼, 7 7/8 and 10 ½ boxes, but 2-4-6-8 is so much easier to say) I mentioned previously.
How to make these boxes: because we wanted taller bags, we had to use a full 8 ½ x 11 sheet of cardstock. Normally 2-4-6-8 boxes are made with a half sheet of 8 ½ x 11 (ie. 8 ½ x 5 ½), which you cut and score at 2", 4" , 6" & 8" - hence the name. You can easily find directions for those boxes on various paper crafting websites (Splitcoast Stampers is one of my favorites). The instructions here are modified for full-sheet size (and I’ve added a few hints from my experience).
Modified 2-4-6-8 boxes
1 sheet 8 ½ x 11” cardstock
stamp or other decoration (ours was a Stampendous stamp that had the words Faith, Hope and Love vertically oriented in both Chinese characters and in English – Hobby Lobby once carried this stamp, don’t know if they still do)
strong adhesive – Tombow scrapbook adhesive works well
two custom fortune cookies (check out www.fortunecookiestore.com)
Start by scoring your cardstock 2 5/8” from one side, from top to bottom (see illustration below).
Next, turn the cardstock lengthwise with the score line closer to the bottom. Score down to your previous score line at 2 5/8”, 5 ¼”, 7 7/8” and 10 ½”. Then, without turning the paper, cut up from the bottom to the first score line at each of those same measurements according to the drawing. (It’s easiest if you have a blade cutter where you can run a cutting blade and a scoring blade from either end at the same time. If not, you can do all your scoring lines first, then go back and cut.) You will end up with a small ½” x 2 5/8” rectangle cut-out in one corner - just pitch it.
Here’s what it should look like (dotted lines are “score” & solid are “cut”):
Now stamp and decorate your box. You may want to lightly fold it to line up your images. We stamped our boxes on both the front and the back (remember, the side portions will fold in like on a milk carton, so you don’t want to stamp on them).
You’re ready to assemble the box. Start by folding the score lines. I recommend using a bone folder or ruler to make your folds sharper. Put adhesive on three of your four base flaps (remember which one will be the bottom as you assemble) and on the ½” flap. Put the box together, being careful to line each portion up . You’ll want to take extra care in adhering the bottom part of the ½” flap as that part tends to buckle and unglue.
Put your fortune cookies into the box. Pull the front and back together at the top, tucking the sides in like a milk carton. Then to close you can either staple the top, like we did, or you can punch holes at the top and put ribbon through to tie closed.
Here's a finished box:
Other options: cut a hole in the front section for a window. Then either cover with acetate to keep the treats in, or put the treats in a clear bag before putting into the box. You could obviously use any theme or color scheme and can change what you put into the box to match. I’ve seen Valentine boxes with Hershey kisses and Halloween ones with candy corns. Be creative! And have fun!
Oh, and since we’re price-sensitive with our “pampering”, let me give you a rough cost. Cardstock will cost you 35 cents or less per sheet. Fortune cookies run 40 cents or less apiece (depending on quantity). Plus you’ll need to add the cost of a stamp, ink and adhesive, maybe staples. At most you’ll be spending $1.50 apiece. Ours, because we were making 100 and used some coupons at the craft stores, cost less than a dollar. Change what you put in your boxes and you could probably spend even less than that.
For more ideas like this and other information on creating inexpensive gifts and decorations, check out the new book, Pampering Gifts: Crafting a Ministry of Treating People Well For Less.
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
That means I have to break out the workout videos. Not entirely a bad option. Over the years I've accumulated a few I actually like (notice, I didn't say "enjoy"). And so I've been huffing and puffing and grunting and groaning to the beat of Kathy Smith's background tunes in my basement. With my kids for company. Yes, my kids like to watch me exercise. Don't ask why. My theory is it has to do with being able to watch TV. Any TV. Even TV of people doing sit-ups and push-ups and bicep curls.
So here I am, in my basement, dutifully trying to do every repetition of every exercise on these videos. But I'm out of shape. So it's tough. And I'm grunting and groaning under the strain of weakened muscles. Then my ever-encouraging daughters pipe up, "you don't have to do all of them. You could just stop". "No, no," I protest. "It's a workout. I've got to keep going." And on I go, until finally my legs or arms or whatever body part I'm working gives out. And I collapse.
"That's okay," my daughters say. "You don't have to do this. Really." Of course my mind is telling me they're right and my muscles are screaming for me to agree. "Quit now," they're all saying. But I keep going, off and on, my motivation all but gone. Somehow I make it to the end of each session without just turning off the TV and pitching the video in the garbage. But each time I go down there the voices of negativity join me. Even today, with only one child accompanying me (and attempting to do the exercises herself - what 5-year-old needs to do an ab workout anyway?), I still got that "you don't have to do this" line. Thanks for the support, kids. Maybe before my next workout I'll coach my girls on the finer points of cheerleading. Like rooting for your team to win (or your mom to finish strong). Or maybe I'll just bundle up in a parka and head on outside where those negative voices will be drowned out by the howling wind.
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
The Awana Grand Prix took place (sort of) this past weekend. It’s a pine car derby. Kids buy a kit for $5 (piece of wood, wheels & axels & stickers). Then they design and build their own cars to race. On race day cars are checked in and weighed to determine that they meet all the specifications for the race. Then six rounds of 16 races apiece are run, with each car running once on each of the six lanes during the course of the morning. Computerized track equipment (with video feed to a large screen) tallies the finishing times to 3 (or was it 4?) decimal points for each race and final standings are based on cumulative finishing times.
Serious stuff, right? You bet. It’s a real competition. None of this “everybody wins” fluff that you often see here in our fair city (which, by the way, none of the kids buys into anyway. Every park district soccer game is played without official score-keeping, but ask any kindergartener and they’ll tell you whether their team is winning or not). I appreciate giving kids a chance to try new things and learn without the threat of humiliation. But I also think helping kids to lose (and win) graciously is a part of our job as parents and something they need to learn while they’re young and have our support.
So, race day ended on a negative and a positive. The computerized equipment failed during the first round of races. Therefore the speed portion of the competition was postponed until Spring. However, the design/appearance judging had already taken place, so trophies were awarded. And guess what? Both of my daughters won! Okay, so they were two out of the five cars entered in the “Sparks Novelty” category (aka K-2nd grade, with a car made to look like something other than a car), which gave them a better than fighting-chance at taking home an award. My kindergartner took third place for her candy corn car. My second-grader got the second-place trophy for her bed car.
There were eighteen trophies total awarded for design. That means about forty or fifty kids went home without trophies. A few tears were shed. If I remember right the first two years that our eldest entered and didn’t win she had reacted that way. And I believe that made her win this year that much sweeter. Her five-year-old sister was definitely awed. She kept saying, “this was only my first time and I won!”. She’d learned from her sister’s previous attempts that winning wasn’t guaranteed. So I’m all for some healthy competition in my kids’ lives. They learn that losing isn’t entirely about failure and a real win is worth working for.
Monday, November 13, 2006
I’m a mom. That means I live my life in chunks. There’s the rare chunk of time in the morning (IF I manage to get up before the kids) where I have some quiet to myself. That’s followed by the breakfast & get ready for school chunk. Followed by a chunk of chores and/or take my three-year-old to gymnastics/storytime. Then there’s kindergarten pickup, followed by lunch. After lunch is a small chunk of alone time with my five-year-old (while the youngest starts her nap). And the middle of the day contains the blissful duo-nap chunk (which I’m in right now, aaaah). This chunk is where most of my writing occurs, although tiny bits occur in that early morning chunk and occasionally I’ll squeeze some into the nighttime chunk.
Anyway, you get the point. Rarely is there any long, uninterrupted portion of the day to devote to anything. It all happens in small bits. Which is why my “to do list” is generated on a weekly, rather than daily basis. Over the span of a week a lot gets done. Sometimes people will ask me how I “do it all”. I don’t do it “all”. My house isn’t spotless, although I’m cleaning parts of it every day. I exercise much less than I ever mean to. But I do manage to scrapbook (more on that another day) and occasionally sew, or make cards. Plus I write. All those things get thrown into the gaps between chunks (thankfully there’s no “defrag” program for my daily schedule) or into the naptime or nighttime chunk.
If you’re a mom and feeling your life is out of control, take a look at how your day is set up. Figure out the non-negotiable chunks that you have to work around. Now take control of the floating bits of time. That fifteen minutes after breakfast while the kids are getting dressed and ready for school – can that be yours to use? Naptime is a great option. But if your kids are always awake, can you plan a quiet activity for a half hour that allows you some “mommy time”? Just remember, it may be a few years before you get any amount of lengthy free time. Let those little chunks add up into something meaningful for now instead.
Oh, and if you’ve got an accommodating husband, ask for a big chunk to yourself. Maybe a Saturday afternoon at the movies with a friend. Or an evening off at a scrapbook workshop. I’m looking to go. Anyone wanna join me?
Saturday, November 11, 2006
I did attend the Veteran's Day ceremony at our grade school on Wednesday and found it quite moving. The whole school gathered outside by the flagpole It was a gloomy, foggy morning. They began by saying the Pledge of Allegiance. Then a navy veteran (in uniform) lowered the flag to half mast and we observed a moment of silence. Thinking of the sacrifice men and women in our armed forces have made and continue to make was choking me up. The dark skies only heightened that sense of sorrow and gratitude. But, get this: as the flag was being raised back up the pole, the sun burst through the fog in a long gleam of light. It was a stunning moment. I'm not sure if anyone else noticed it or even considered the symbolism in it.
So, to all the veterans who have served this country of ours, "thank you"! God bless you (I hope you feel the light of His face shining on you today).
Friday, November 10, 2006
After an enjoyable visit with the second grade and kindergarten teachers (yay!), we met my husband for lunch and then took a small "field trip". We've been reading the Chronicles of Narnia as a family. Just started our second time through The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (first time for my 5 and 3-year old). My husband reads us questions and comments from the family guide to the series called Roar (which I highly recommend). It mentioned that the real wardrobe is in Wheaton, Illinois. Just north of Naperville. So guess what we went to see?
It was pretty cool, actually. The Wade Center at Wheaton College has a whole collection of C.S. Lewis' possessions, including his writing desk and the wardrobe that his grandfather built and hand carved. The girls had fun looking into the wardrobe (which actually had fur coats hanging in it). Tolkien fans would appreciate the Center too. It houses writings and other materials from a total of seven Christian authors, some contemporaries and friends of Lewis, and others that figured into his writing (okay, I can't remember for sure how they all fit together, but it was something along those lines). Let's see how many names I can remember: Dorothy Sayers, George MacDonald, Owen Barfield, J.R.R. Tolkien, Lewis, G.K. Chesterton and... the other name escapes me. You can probably guess, if you're familiar with any of these writers, that my children lost interest after they saw all the Lewis and Narnia-related objects.
Seeing the writings of these great authors to and about one another, and reading a little about the writers group they formed together, really inspired me. Writing is such an isolated act. But working in community with other writers can make a huge difference. I know I've appreciated the times I've gotten to meet and share with writer friends. It's the whole "iron sharpening iron" concept in the context of the craft of writing. So, to my writers group friends: it's been too long. Let's get together soon.
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
I hit upon an idea back in August when I found a boxful of masonite clipboards for cheap at a garage sale. Altered clipboards for everyone! These photos show two clipboards I've already made. Wanna know how it's done? See the instructions at the end of this post.
My question for you today is: "what are you giving to the special service provider-type people in your children's lives this year?". I'm talking teachers (school, church, piano, etc.), babysitters and other special folks who deserve a gift of appreciation. Share your ideas (and in the weeks to come I'll try to share more of mine).
Altered Clipboard Instructions:
Supplies - wood clipboard
stamps, stickers or other embellishments
scrapbooking/paper crafting adhesive
acrylic craft paints
clear acrylic spray (optional)
Begin by selecting your paper and color scheme. You can paint the back and outer edges to complement your scheme. I usually paint the clip also after the rest is done (the clip should be clamped open when painting the wood surface and gluing on your papers). Next decide how your going to arrange the paper and any other elements (such as tags or words, etc). Stamp (and color, if necessary) any images or words you will be using. Then begin gluing the pieces onto the clipboard (be sure if any elements are overlapping that you glue them in the correct order). I usually run the base layer through my Xyron machine as I find that adhesive to be the strongest. Once you are done painting and gluing you'll want to seal all the pieces by coating them with Mod Podge. I usually use a satin finish rather than glossy. It is recommended that you wet sand between coats, but I find that this sometimes mars the images and the paper. 2-3 coats of Mod Podge should be sufficient. Once you've completed the clipboard you can give a final coat of protection (a necessary step if you expect the recipient to be using the clipboard) by spraying it with a clear acrylic. For the women on my gift list I like to add an organza ribbon to the clip for an added touch.
There you go! Have fun altering a clipboard. If you make one, tell me about it.
For more ideas like this and other information on creating inexpensive gifts and decorations, check out the new book, Pampering Gifts: Crafting a Ministry of Treating People Well For Less.
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
I'd been remembering that whole experience while walking home from the polling place (the grade school) with my three-year old this morning. She commented on the damp air and I told her it was fog. A little bit later we were leaving the house again and she said, "it's froggy out". I think she likes frogs though, so I didn't bother to explain. Besides, it sounded cute coming from her. In the meantime I'm still hoping the sun will break through today. It's feeling a little too slimy out there for me.
Saturday, November 04, 2006
Today was basement decluttering day in our house. Here’s what we pitched:
6 pairs of closet doors
2 computer monitors
6 old video tapes
44 cassette tapes
A whole lot more stuff got rearranged –mostly into the crawl space. So it feels a little roomier in our rec room. Part of me is wishing that list above was a little longer.
Did I mention that during this decluttering my husband turned another pair of closet doors into shelves under our basement stairs? He’s pretty handy. He also likes to have places to keep his stuff. More shelves=more places. Me? I like less stuff. To me less stuff=more room. Hmmm…wait a minute. Maybe our decluttering venture was more of a success than I originally measured. I got more empty space and hubby got more storage space. A win-win situation.
Next stop: the garage. Or maybe not.
Friday, November 03, 2006
The other day I was at Michael's (the craft store) looking for more card stock for 2-4-6-8 boxes we were going to make for take-home gifts for the mom's group I'm in. I needed 29 more sheets of cottonwood. Not blonde columns, or ivory, or white. Cottonwood. 29 sheets. I'd already gotten 21 sheets at a different store, but I needed 50 total. There was a small stack on the shelf. So I prayed, "God, I need 29 sheets. Please let there be 29 sheets here".
That's why I started this blog. Because I needed 29 sheets of cardstock for a small gift (we're talking the $1 or less variety) for the mom's group I'm in. You see, the question is, "Does God really care about favors for mom's groups?". Should I be wasting His time with little requests like that? Let me tell you the rest of the story.
I picked up the whole stack off the shelf and I counted. 1...2...3. When I got to the last sheet it was 29. "Yeah right. Just a coincidence”, you might say. Maybe if it were just that one time. But it's not out of the ordinary for me, or our Pampering Team (as those of us who plan and make all the gifts and decorations for GEMS Naperville call ourselves). It happens often. Very often. And so I decided it was time to start recording those occasions.
You see, I think God does care. Maybe not about the favors. Those are just things. But about moms. And little gifts that are made just for a mom (not by her kids, I might add) mean something. To her and, maybe because of that fact, to God. Don't agree? Check back. I'll be letting you know about other things that "just happen". If nothing else, I hope to at least get you to wonder.
Thursday, November 02, 2006
I like to wonder. Not to know or have all the answers. Lots of times I’d prefer to guess or make up an answer. Like maybe the neighbor has poor night vision and sees things better in yellow (although wouldn’t green be better – seems like those goggle things you use for seeing through the dark are always tinted green). That’s the writer in me. The real answer would probably be much more boring. The neighbor probably picked up yellow at the store by accident like my husband did yesterday.
Anyway, I promise not to always be so stream-of-consciousness. Some days I’ll report on a fascinating book I’m reading. Other days I’ll share an idea from the book I’m writing. Maybe instructions on how to make one of the cheap ($1 or less) gifts in the book. And I’ll definitely talk about faith and how it plays out in my life. Answers to seemingly insignificant prayers. Now isn’t that something to wonder about?